Chris Croft's Personal Blog

July 10, 2015

Russian Visa – two useful tips

Filed under: Travel and driving — Tags: — chriscroft @ 6:12 pm

If you’re going to visit Russia as a tourist you have to get a visa, and that means going to London to have your finger prints taken and to hand in their ridiculously detailed application form.  If in doubt, don’t bother to visit Russia, we are clearly not welcome!  But if  you ARE determined to go, I have two tips from when I got my visa

1 – They want to know every country you’ve visited, and in my case that’s too many to remember.   And if you miss a few, who’s to know?   But be careful to list EVERY country you’ve visited that’s listed in your passport.  All the ones with stamps in there.  Because the one thing they CAN check is that the form agrees with the passport.  I forgot to mention Cambodia.  Oops!  but to be fair, they did allow me to add it to the form there and then.

2 – Your visa photo.  Lots of people have had trouble with this!  They want one that is less than 6 months old.  My photo was the same as my passport  – seems reasonable? – but my passport is several years old, so they KNEW the photo was also several years old.  So they rejected it, looking rather proud of their cunning logic.  I used another one (which may or may not have been even older, I can’t possibly comment!) which they were happy with.  Both photos looked almost exactly the same, and exactly like me, as I stood there before them, but no, if it’s the same photo as your passport (the passport you will be using to enter the country on your holiday) they won’t accept it.   Any other photo, for example the one my wife used which has totally different hair and which bears almost no resemblance to her: they will accept.  Brilliant!

In the Russians’ favour, the queue was only short, and you can take any bag in with you – it’s just like a post office with a waiting area, so although they say rather scarily on the application form that you can’t bring a laptop in, nobody checks your bag and it’s fine if you’ve got one in there – or at least it was when I went.  And they take credit cards too, or cash.  Although at £100 per person it does feel like a money-making exercise.  Don’t go unless you really want to.  Italy Ireland and Iceland are all free!

So, I hope that helps you – those are the things I wish I’d known before I went.


October 27, 2012

Tips for going on holiday to India

Filed under: Books and Culture, Happiness, Travel and driving — Tags: , , , — chriscroft @ 6:33 pm

I’ve been twice, so I’m not an expert but I know a bit. I was asked for any tips and this is what I said – I hope it helps anyone else who is going to this fantastic and wonderful country. I love the people, the food, and the buildings more than anywhere else in the world.

  • allow plenty of time for the taj mahal, it’s fantastic, just sit and stare at it.  Ideally go at sunrise and wait outside the doors before it opens so you’re the first one in!   It gets really packed during the day.
  • don’t expect any privacy, people will stare at you and want to talk to you, so you might as well be a celebrity and talk to everyone and have fun
  • it’s worth having a guide (not sure how your trip is organised) and good English is the main thing to try to get, though hard to assess until too late and they arrive!
  • see the Jantar Mantar if you can, it’s brilliant – in Jaipur
  • we only got ill because we went into a restaurant where no westerners were, and it had sticky tables and flies buzzing around – what were we thinking? On my second visit I didn’t get ill at all, and we ate food from street vendors but it was freshly cooked and still hot
  • beggars – not many and you get used to them. don’t give them money ever (it all goes back to central beggar-masters etc) – take a load of biros to give out!  Or maybe some small packs of cards to give out – you can get these from amazon very cheaply and I think they count as educational….
  • we felt safe all the time
  • take a great camera!
  • camel trips – over-rated. maybe try a 30 minute one but all day will be hell!
  • elephant ride – fun, but again, only for 10 minutes!
  • don’t trust the monkeys who hang around the monuments
  • it gets cold suddenly when the sun goes down at 6pm so take a sweater/fleece for the evenings (when you pack for the trip, and every day when you go out)
  • great shopping! get some hand made silk dresses – they do it in a day and it’s only £20 or something, and you choose the style and the material and they make it spot on (though tightly / closely fitted!). take more cash than you think, it’s very tempting!
  • when they say they will ship it home for you they really do. they are very honest, though everyone is taking a cut from everything so when they recommend a shop or restaurant it’s often just that they are getting a cut.
  • definitely negotiate on the price of everything you buy from a shop!
  • consider reading before you go (or taking with you) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.
  • have fun – it’s the most brilliant country in the world, without a shadow of a doubt

I hope that helps!!

October 29, 2011

My favourite van graffiti

Filed under: Lists, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 11:17 am

Years ago I was amused to see
“Also available in white”, on a white van

since then there have been many witty variations, and here are my favourites:

“White with a hint of M42”
“Do not clean – seeds planted”
“Plough Me”
“Test dirt. Do not wash”
“Anti glare paint”
“I wish my wife was as dirty as this”
… “Oh, she is!” (added to the above)
… “and she’s in this van!” (added to the above)
“I wish my wife was as dirty as this… “then I could write things on her back”
“If my wife was as dirty as this I would be at home”
“Is your mother as dirty as your van?… I already know your wife is”
“It’s this dirty because I washed it with your wife’s knickers”
“Small penis available – see driver”
“If you think this van is dirty, you should try having sex with the driver”
“Dirty? You should see my arse”
“Why clean me, why even keep me, why even look at me, why not SCRAP me?”
“If you’ve read this notice then by the time you read it, you’ll have already read it”
“If you can read this you are a c*nt”
“What are the pink bits in my tyres? Cyclists & Joggers”
“This van’s got a widget”
“No hand signals. Driver on Viagra”
“If you can’t see my mirrors, I’m doing my hair”
“Quiet, refugees sleeping”
“Help! Been kidnapped, call police”
“How’s my speeding?”
“Wisely Driven? If so call police – vehicle stolen”
“For sale: mop and bucket never used”
“Cleaned by Stevie Wonder, checked by David Blunkett”
“A dog is for life, not just Saturday night”
“Big baby on board”

“Please pass quietly – driver asleep”
“Oh shit, now I need to wash my finger”

Specialist graffiti
“No jobbie too big”, sewage lorry
“Every do you do is driven by us”, cesspit collection tanker
“Did you ever wish you hadn’t started something?”, on the dirty half of a half-washed van
“We watch your wife while she showers”, window fitter’s van
“I love getting felt”, roofing contractor’s van
“Caution: Pigs in Transit”, Police van

September 20, 2011

“I could do what you do, Chris”

Filed under: Careers, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 7:14 pm

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this!

But seriously, if you are thinking of becoming a trainer, what advice would I give?

  1. Are you structured enough to have a plan (it’s very unforgiving if you turn up late or with the wrong materials!) but also free-wheeling enough to cope with different numbers of people, venue problems, timing changes, groups who are more or less chatty, etc?  This mix of organised but improviser is quite unusual in a person, and if you are very organised or very disorganised then forget training as a career!
  2. Are you social but solitary?  The ideal trainer would be completely comfortable with walking into a room full of people they don’t know, and becoming their friend during the day – but then walking away and never seeing them again.  No sense of belonging anywhere, never part of anything, and yet meeting vast number of people on quite a shallow basis.
  3. Do you have the ability to remember a day’s worth of material, but also have a memory like a goldfish?  If I’m doing Project Management five days in a row I need to be able to forget the previous day every morning, or else it’ll interfere with my flow: “Have I already said that?”   Each day needs to feel fresh, every time, hundreds of times.
  4. Master of depth AND width – you need to know enough to answer questions from 20 people at once, but also to know about more than one subject.  If y ou only teach one thing, every day over and over, even with (3) above you will surely go mad!
  5. Can you Do and Sell?  Being self employed means doing your own selling, and if you get your work from an agency they’ll take a huge cut and never guarantee you work, so you have to be happy and able to sell as well as do.
  6. Can you sleep well in a different bed every night of the week?  Are you happy to be able to be away from home an everage of 2 or 3 nights a week?  Are you happy to travel on Sunday nights, prepare at weekends, and do emails in the evenings?
  7. Do you have the evergy to drive – present – drive – present – drive – present – drive  endlessly, putting in maximum energy every day?  The adrenalin of presenting tends to give you the energy at the time, but afterwards boy, how tired you feel!  I usually sleep all of saturday morning!
  8. Do you have the staying power to build up a pipeline of repeats from happy customers – this takes a minimum of five years.  No customer should be more than 20% of your work either, so you proabably need 10-20 regular customers.

If you can cope with the above, then welcome to my world!  It’s really fun, I can’t think of a job I’d rather do, it’s quite well paid, you’re meeting new people every day, helping them, having a laugh while making a difference, there are hardly any costs, it’s a clean environment with very little physical work, you don’t have a boss, and you get to be the star of the show.

But making it look easy is not as easy as it looks ….

September 17, 2011

“If I could just pre-authorise your credit card sir?”

Filed under: Assertiveness, Customer Care, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 1:02 pm

….“It’s just a swipe of the card, we’re not going to charge anything to it, but it’s more convenient if you want to add any extras to your bill”


There seems to be an increasing trend towards taking a swipe of my card when I check in to hotels, even though I’m not buying anything.  Maybe I’ve already paid for the hotel in full in advance, or maybe I’m going to pay for everything when I leave – either way, why do they need my card?

And if you say “It’s OK thanks, I’m not planning to buy any extras (meals, mini-bar) they start to insist on the pre-authorisation.

My fear is that they’ll accidentally charge me for the hotel room twice, or put all sorts of things on it.  So I really don’t like giving my card in for “unknown expenditure” at the start.  Not to mention the time it takes when I just want to check in and go to bed.

So – why are they doing this?

Is it in case I do a runner?  Or damage my room in some way? Seems unlikely – they already know my address etc, and anyway, they claim that they can’t take any money on the card without me signing for it again – in which case, what’s the point?

Does anyone know whether than CAN actually take money from the card without me coming back to sign a second time?

I do agree that it might make charging for extras easier, but then why don’t I just sign receipts with a pen as I go along, like most hotels, and then pay my bill at the end?  Especially if I’ve got to come back and do the card a second time anyway, it hasn’t saved me any time at all.

Thoughts anyone?

April 28, 2011

Favourite countries to visit

Filed under: Lists, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 12:40 pm

Personally I seem to have a thing about countries beginning with i:

Ireland, because it’s the friendliest place in the world – except possibly for…
India, which has those great people, great buildings, great food, warm weather, fab shopping, and just all round amazingness
In Europe the winner has to be Italy, with the weather food and people
Iceland is good too, certainly for one visit if not repeats – nowhere on earth is remotely like it.

Norway is the most beautiful country in the world and has to be seen – just don’t eat or drink anything there unless you are a millionaire!

And a vote has to go to Australia, for laid back easy sunshine, people more friendly than we are led to believe in the UK, and great outdoor activities if not architecture…

My oddball choice goes to Guatemala. Much better than I expected, with jungle pyramids, restful lake Atitlan, volcanoes, the superb Antigua, the incredible colours of clothing, and the friendly people.

Sorry Finland, Boston and SanFran, (the USA can’t be lumped in as one), Marrakesh, Peru, Greece (both Athens and the Greek Islands are pretty good), Holland, Denmark, and Nepal you nearly made it to division 1.

Still unknown, might be added later: Vietnam, Thailand, sub-Saharan Africa, Poland, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, China, and Japan

No comments either way on Germany, most of USA, Egypt (see the pyramids and then get out), and Canada

Down in the relegation zone are France and Spain, sorry guys, must try harder…

April 4, 2011

Urban i-Spy

Do you remember those lovely old fashioned books of things to look for on a long journey?

I mostly entertain myself by looking for Worlds (see but what about a journey with kids.

In these modern times I have the following list for you to print out and use:

5 Points
Tailback of greater than a mile
Someone over 40 wearing a mini-skirt (can look good, you still get the points)
Aftermath of an accident
Underage smoker
Someone throwing litter out of their window
Missing hubcap / wheel trim
Man driving while wearing hat
Pregnant woman
Dog with head out of the window

10 points

Someone jumping the lights on amber
Fluffy dice
Flat hedgehog
Boarded up shop
Man with pony tail
Couple with matching anoraks
Car with fog lights on when it’s not foggy
Car with only one headlight working
bottom of dress caught in door and flapping

20 points

Dog actually doing a poo
Fat man on small moped
Workman’s cleft
Person who looks like their dog

50 points
Couple with matching sweaters
Seeing an accident happen
Person under 10 years old smoking

Pet Hates

Filed under: Gadgets, Lists, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 5:23 pm

OOOH, I’m Mr Angry of Parkstone! Here are just SOME of the things that really annoy me!

People driving with foglights on when it’s not foggy
People who put very bright rear foglights on when there is a tiny bit of rain, or…. fog
People with only one headlight working, especially when they put the one on full beam
Warning triangles right next to the car instead of way before you come upon the broken down car (“warning”)
Motorbikes that are slower than cars
Very loud little mopeds
People who sit for ages outside your house in their car / van / taxi with the engine idling

Hairs on soap
… which go round the back when you try to wash them off
Showers that are little more than a dribble
Showers that have sudden temperature fluctuations
Hairs in the plug hole
Upside-down light switches
Builders like Barratt who call their houses “Homes” – no, you are selling a HOUSE, I’LL decide when it’s a home

… who say “I’m not comfortable with that” and “I have issues with that”
… who try to make you drink more (what’s it to them?)
… who write on books
Being made to drink weird foreign drinks by friendly foreigners in order to prove your manliness


Upside down 8s on petrol station signs and house numbers
Houses which have no visible number so you can’t find the one you want
Cats who pretend to be friendly and then are suddenly vicious – make your minds up!
Badly attached buttons on new shirts
Supermarket trolleys that won’t go straight (making you look like a bad driver)
When your wife ‘helps’ you steer by pulling the front of the trolley sideways slightly while you’re pushing it (I can do it!!)
Trolleys left in parking spaces – you have to get out and move the trolley before you park – or maybe you could slowly ram it….?
Two different colours of handwash in the toilets, not labelled – what are they, which one should I use?
Footballers who fall down and writhe in agony, but then within seconds are up and running around again.
Tennis players who when serving take several balls and then reject the ones that are 1% less (or is it more?) fluffy

my MPG experiment in my Audi

Filed under: Lists, Random stuff - uncategorisable, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 5:15 pm

(It’s a 2 litre diesel, by the way)

Of course, you never know if the instrumentation is telling the truth, but I tried putting cruise control on at various speeds on a flat road (hey Mr Plod, it might not have been in the UK…) and this is what I found:

80 mph – 55 mpg
85 – 45
90 – 37
100 – 32
110 – 28

so the conclusion is that speeding is not only dangerous (yes yes Mr Plod!) but also quite expensive!

I’ll try it for 50 and 70 when I can find a road where I can go that slowly without annoying all the other drivers…

though early indications are that the mpg at 50 or 70 seems to be worse than at 80! Could it be that my car has an optimum speed of 80? (Which is of course illegal, Mr Plod, yes I know – what a shame!)


March 26, 2011

Designing cars to look deliberately ugly?

I’d be interested to hear from anyone with a good theory about why Skodas don’t look as nice as Audis. Don’t get me wrong, Skodas are brilliant cars, especially for the price – the days of quality problems are long gone. But they don’t LOOK as good do they? Possible explanations why cars from the same company vary so much are:

a) Quality somehow shows through – better-made and better-functioning cars just will unavoidably be a nicer shape as well
b) The difference is in my head, I just can’t help being biased, and if Skodas did cost more than Audis I would find myself preferring the look of the Skoda
c) Audi pay their designers more because they have more money from the sale of the car. The Skoda designers just aren’t as skilled
d) it costs more to manufacture a better-looking car
e) Audi deliberately reduce the attractiveness of the Skodas so they don’t impinge on the sales of Audis (but can you imagine them saying “Design something ugly please” or “sorry, that car is too good looking, bin that design?) If this is really the case it can’t be much fun being a Skoda designer, when you KNOW you could do better but aren’t allowed to.

I find all of the above five hard to believe. Did I miss one?

I am told that although Skoda are part of the Audi group they are totally independent, Audi have no power over Skoda, so maybe e) can’t happen. But then, the other options aren’t very convincing…

thoughts anyone?


PS – am amusing discussion thread is going on at

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